Birthdays, Books, Bananas, Coffins

Posted in Mixed Nuts on December 8th, 2010 by MadDog
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A friend of thirty years appeared to me yesterday morning at the office to be more than usually tired and glum. He’s carrying a load that would break my back. I heard him mention that he needed to get to the workshop to build a coffin. It was his second coffin making experience in the last few days. It suddenly occurred to me, as the murky haze shrouding me in self-pity cleared for a moment, that coffin building, let alone serial coffin building, is not something one should have to do alone. I coaxed him to let me drive down the the workshop with him to lend a hand.

It was a thought provoking experience. As we measured, sawed and hammered the coffin a boy who had suffered measles as a young child now lay dead from a type of meningitis which occurs eight to ten years after a measles infection. Sometimes it’s good to have something to do with your hands as dangerous thoughts run demon-like through your brain.

Death. We tread lightly around the subject. We seldom discuss it unless the prospect sticks its ugly head up out of the pit and says, “Boo!” A father considers the possibility when a child is ill with measles. It’s a killer and a maimer here. The son defies the odds and survives, seemingly healthy and strong. Years later the son sickens and dies as the time-delay fuse on the landmine burns through. A husband and wife quietly and with careful logic, keeping it at arm’s length, discuss the ever so remote possibility as if it were the most unlikely thing in the world. Suddenly the subject becomes less academic. The psychic earthquake topples all of the complex edifices. They show themselves finally as facades. How we trust life!

In the meantime, someone somewhere is nailing a coffin together.

Outside the workshop a banana tree was busting its guts to make bananas:

It’s got to be one of the stranger flowers on the planet. This orb holds a great number of very strange things – pathways leading to indeterminate destinations, doorways to alternate universes.

Here are the usual suspects present at Blueblood last Sunday where we celebrated several birthdays and one anniversary. Any excuse for a party:

We were desperately short of eating utensils. I ate with my fingers. Someone, who shall not be named, but is sitting at the far left of the picture, forgot to bring the cutlery.

Hmm . . . I seem to be rambling this evening. I’m between major dirges. This will be a tiptoe through the garden of fitful discontent.

Though I am sleeping much better now, I may as well get used to the idea that I’m never, barring a serious concussion, going to have a long, uninterrupted snooze again. Early life sleep patterns go awry in maturity. Onset of sleep becomes more haphazard and difficult to achieve. Interruptions are more frequent and the return to sleep is delayed, sometimes impossible. I’m trying to minimise as much as possible my intake of sleep aids, because they have some very undesirable side effects.

One thing which I’ve relied upon for years is a not-so-good book. I always keep my glasses where I can reach them without moving too much. The book is just under them. If I read through slitted eyes and try very hard not to go to sleep, I’ll usually doze off. Then the light interferes with slumber and my glasses are all cattywampus and hurting my ears. So, I wake up again. What do I see? Those who suffer insomnia will probably recognise this sight:

Yes, that’s your hand somehow still clutching the book loosely while the pages flap lazily in time with your breathing. It’s decision making time, eh? Rouse enough to remove the spectacles and turn the light off or find your place again (if it really matters) and try again. Sometimes it seems a very difficult decision.

We trip lightly through a world where most everything seems to stay in its proper place and things usually appear to work more or less as they should. We’re not seriously threatened by regular tragedies and life can go on for decades with little bother or fuss. There are usually no huge injustices or overly troubling developments to rattle our cages enough to enrage or frighten us. It strikes me that this orderliness makes us very innocent and vulnerable. We’re ill prepared for adversity:

The world can grow suddenly very dark and scary. Everything takes on a dual aspect of terrible familiarity while simultaneously being strange, out of kilter. This is the alternate universe idea of which I spoke. It is as if one accidentally takes a wrong turn, stepping through some odd black door and finds oneself in a world in which everything known is instantly transformed into a twisted version of itself. Up is down. Right is left. Right is wrong.  Look around for the back side of that odd little door. You can’t find it. It has disappeared – vanished in a puff of pixy dust. As it is so succinctly stated in The Eagles’ Hotel California,  “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.”

Here’s me the Birthday Boy, perilously close to sixty-seven years young. That’s some kind of weird flower. It clashes with my very nice twenty-five year old silk shirt:

It’s a self-portrait. I call that a smile these days.

I had a very nice semi-surprise party at Monty and Meri Armstrong’s home. Meri had very sweetly asked me what I wanted to do about my birthday. Frankly, I’d been dreading it, along with Christmas. I not-so-subtly told her that I really didn’t want to be bothering with it, but if someone decided to do something about it I wouldn’t object. How clever is that? It’s about as nuanced as a ball-peen hammer wrapped in velvet. Meri was very gracious and within a day or two I had a mysterious invitation to “dinner” on Saturday night. I was not disappointed.

Meri’s cheesecake was the star of the evening:

Since it was an intimate gathering of friends there was plenty of this magnificent bit of culinary prestidigitation for all. The blackish stuff is some kind of delicious berry, the name of which I can’t recall.

So, for the upteenth time I’ve gotten through a rough patch by the simple device of allowing my friends to drag me along. They suffer the thorn pricks and stone bruises along with me. They pick me up when I stumble, patch me up when I’m bleeding and leaking salty tears.

I’m a very wealthy man. You can’t count my fortune. Numbers don’t go that high.

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No Sunrise

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 28th, 2010 by MadDog
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Of course, I don’t mean that literally. The sun did  come up this morning. The resulting light show was very subdued, but it had a power of its own, so it seemed worth capturing. Ordinarily, this gloomy display would urge me into a similar mood. I seem strangely unaffected by it today, though I know that Eunie will complain, “It reminds me of winter.”

After yesterday’s Marathon of babel, my word machine is in recovery mode. Today will be Madang – Ples Bilong Mi  Lite. I ran through a few images from the last week and came up with these. 

As I was driving past the location of the Arcade fire some time ago I snapped this shot:

The remains of the building are gradually disappearing. If left long enough there will be no expense for removing it. Gradually, bit by bit, every scrap of it will be carried off.

If you look just to the right of the remains of the Arcade in the image above, you will see a vacant lot. That is the former location of the Chemcare pharmacy. After the fire, over a period of months, the lot was picked clean. Here is a shot of our old friend Greg O’Keefe looking a bit glum as his workplace goes up in smoke:

We’ll see how long it takes to have two vacant lots in a row.

On Sunday morning I went over to the beautiful grounds of The Madang Lodge and Restaurant to shoot some family portraits for our friends Jimm and Heidi. They have been absent from Madang for a while, so I’m including this shot so that their friends can see that the family is well and enjoying a visit to Madang:

Getting Keyen to pose is not unlike herding cats. In principle it should work, but in practice . . .

While at The Lodge, I got this nice shot of the Finisterre Mountains  across Astrolabe Bay  with the swimming pool in the foreground:

The Lodge is one of my favourite spots to get images of friends. The garden is immaculate and a riot of colours.

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The Snake, The Pussycat and the Rower

Posted in Mixed Nuts on July 13th, 2010 by MadDog
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As you may have gathered from the title, today’s post is a bit of a mash-up of unrelated (or possibly not so  unrelated) items which, no matter how much I chatter on  about them, are not sufficient alone to be of much interest. So, be prepared to have your consciousness expanded in several directions simultaneously.

We’ll start with a phone call from good mate Mike Cassell yesterday morning. Mike started off with, “You’re interested in all those natural things, aren’t you?” (I may be paraphrasing here. Exact wordings no longer stick in my brain.) I answered cautiously, “Hmmmm . . . yeah.” You see, Mike is the guy who has, on a couple of occasions, spotted a big saltwater crocodile a few hundred metres from my house. You want to be careful how you answer his leading questions.

Anyway, Mike was down at the Madang Lodge, which he and his wife, Di, own. He said that there was a big green snake in a bush just outside the coffee shop. I said, of course, “I’ll be right there!”  Sure enough, there it was, a beautiful Green Tree Snake (Morelia viridis)  wrapped around some branches sleeping off a huge meal of at least one large critter, possibly two:

These snakes are so incredibly beautiful that you just have to say, “Wow.”

Here’s a close-up if its head:

The appointed snake attendant, who had been guarding it from molestation kept calling it “She”, but I have no idea of its gender. The snake requires a guard, because many local people will kill any snake which they see without even pausing to think about it. Snakes are almost universally considered to be very, very bad, for a variety of reasons. Nobody seems to know that there are non-poisonous snakes which are not only harmless, but very beneficial. Sadly, I have seen many beautiful, harmless snakes killed here because of simple ignorance and superstition.

Nevertheless, this story will hoepfully have a happy ending. I gently hooked my fingers around the head to give you a better look and and idea of the size of the snake. These are very docile snakes. I’ve handled them on many occasions and none of them have shown the slightest inclination to bite:

This one was so sleepy that it hardly noticed.

So, what does the snake have to do with this pussycat? Absolutely nothing. Meet Dory, The Ocean-Going Cat:

Dory sailed across the entire width of the Pacific Ocean  on a tiny nine metre sailboat with her original companions (cats don’t have “owners”) Kyle and Kathy Harris. At no time did Dory consider this an insane proposition, as did many of K & K’s friends.

What is she doing in my IT Dungeon? Well, what cat’s do best – napping. When her current companion left her in my charge for a few hours we made friends again and she wandered around meowing pitifully for a while, as cats are wont to do. Then she discovered the cat’s delight, an empty, cat-sized box:

So, that takes care of the snake and the pussycat. What about the rower?

I finally found my mis-placed USB cord for my Olympus SP-590UZ super-zoom camera and was able to look at the shots which I got when I motored out to try to find Roz Savage as she rowed through Astraolabe Bay  to Madang. Of the frames, this is the one which I like best:

So, there is  a connection between to of the living beings in this post. Two of them have transited the entire breadth of the Pacific Ocean  in tiny boats.

I think that Dory had the easier passage.

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A Photo Shoot – Madang Lodge

Posted in Photography Tricks on November 10th, 2009 by MadDog
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It seems as if everybody needed a photographer at once today. I had wedding photos to get ready for a DVD, images of a recent bush patrol to prepare to send the the USA and I’d promised Diane Cassell that I’d come to do a shoot at Madang Lodge for an advertisement in Air Niugini Magazine. Somehow, I managed to get it all done. If you’d asked me at 09:00 this morning what kind of mood I was going to be at 14:21, I’d have said, “Please have 20mg of valium ready for me.” I’m such a wuss. I just can’t take the pressure.

Anyway, because I’ve been taking care of everybody else, I am now facing a blank screen. The only thing that I can think of to do to amuse you (and myself) in the time that I have is to show you the shots that I took at the lodge and tell you how I got them.

The shots that were the most fun were the ones for which I really needed a helicopter, but did not seem to have one handy. I grabbed a workman with a ladder and dragged him around for a couple of hours so that I could climb up trees, hold onto gutters, and leap around on roofs. Strategic positioning is everything for these shots. A few of them required the judicious trimming of coconut fronds that were obtrusive. This is my favourite of the panoramas:A panoramic shot of the Madang Lodge Restaurant areaThere are several more panoramas in the gallery.

This image was also fun to figure out. Di asked if I could get the two statues alongside of the orchids and show the artifacts house in the background. After a little head scratching, I laid down on my side in the grass up against some bushes to get as far away as I could. Then I punched in just a little telephoto and turned on my flash. The flash lit up the orchid posts just enough to keep them from blocking to black and also punched up the colours in the statues. Di went, “Ooooo!” when she saw it, so I was happy:Two spirit figures in an orchid garden at Madang Lodge The downside was that when I got up I was covered with tiny little black ants that sting like miniscule wasps.

Here’s a shot of the front of the Artifact House. I’m not too thrilled with this one. It stretched the limits of the dynamic range of my Canon G9. If fact, I busted them.  I would like to see a lot more dynamic range and crisp contrast in the front of the house. It was in deep shade from the overhanging roof:The Artefact House at Madang LodgeWhat is it that they say about a poor workman blaming his tools? Mea culpa.

This one makes me much happier. The shadows of the coconut trees add just the dramatic element needed to make this otherwise industrial image pop. I was also able to pull up some detail in the dark shade of on the front of the buildings using the Photoshop Shadows/Highlights filter. In fact, every image in this post was touched by that filter. I find it very useful:

The Restaurant area of the Madang Lodge

One more and I’ll take you to the gallery. I had to stand back in the parking lot and shoot through the doorway to the garden to get this long telephoto shot. The grounds at the Madang Lodge are gorgeous (as you can plainly see). It’s a pleasure to shoot there:

Looking down the main walkway of the Madang Lodge

Now, here is the gallery:

All in a day’s work.

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Tennis Grand Final

Posted in Madang Happenings, Sports on December 10th, 2007 by MadDog
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This FROM:  Shane McCarthy

The two teams that featured in the Grand Final – the Dulux Dogs and the Madang Lodge Turtles – had progressed through a Top Five Finals Series and emerged as the two best teams.

In what was a very close encounter the Turtles triumphed over the Dogs two sets to one. In a strange twist, both teams number ones – The Big Guns – failed to fire, maybe the occasion was too much for them. The deciding set came down to the two and three`s bashing it out for supremacy in Madang.

So, the Madang Lodge Turtles are our Champions for 2007; the Dulux Dogs are Runner Up.

Other awards at the presentation were the Solve-It Sharks: Third Overall; the Dulux Dogs: Most Consistent in Regular Season; and Nick Mleczko`s Potugese Men of War picked up the prestigious N.A.T.A. award.

Thanks to Rose Bukoya and Shane McCarthy for Organising both tournaments this year.

A new comp will kick off in late January – call Shane McCarthy on 852 2499 or email: madang@lbcgroup.com.pg if you wish to enter a team or want more info.

Anybody ever see a motlier mob of spectators? Looks like Tennis Night at Sheila’s Caravan Park.

Tennis Grand Final 2007 - Business House - Spectators

Here’s the Runners-Up – the Dulux DOGS looking like fresh-as-a-daisy, ready-to-roll, in-your-face TENNIS TERRORS!

Tennis Grand Final 2007 - Business House - Runners Up - Dulux Dogs

And, not to be left out of course, the Winners – the Madang Lodge TURTLES! [my oh my, they do look weary – ed.]

Tennis Grand Final 2007 - Business House - Winners - Madang Lodge Turtles

Good job tennis freaks – keep it up!

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